Depression Articles

Senior Depression - Causes

Causes of Depression

Many factors can contribute to depression. Some people become depressed for a combination of reasons. For others, a single factor appears to trigger depression. Some people seem to become depressed for no apparent reason. Regardless of the cause, depression should be diagnosed and treated by a licensed psychologist.

Some of the contributing factors that are particularly important among older people are:

Personality Factors

Certain personality traits seem to be more common in people who become depressed. For example, people with low self-esteem, greater pessimism, or greater dependency needs, seem to be more vulnerable to depression. Certainly, because of the role of cognitive evaluations and pessimism in depression, some personality traits are likely to be more closely related to the development of depression. However, these factors can be treated by a psychologist.

Life Events

The death of a loved one, divorce, moving to a new place, money problems, or any sort of loss have all been linked to depression. People without relatives or friends to help may have even more difficulty coping with their losses. Significant life stress is a factor in depression, regardless of the age of the person. However, certain stressors are more common in older people, such as chronic medical problems, financial distress, loss of close friends and family, and loneliness. Sadness and grief are normal responses to loss and other life stressors, but if these symptoms linger or are severe, psychological help should be sought.  Just because stress is common does not mean we should ignore its effects. Psychologists can help you to develop better life coping skills, and can help you learn how to accept the inevitable losses we all encounter in our lives. When trying to deal with life events beyond our control, the supportive aspects of psychotherapy are very helpful.


Some medicines cause depressive symptoms as side effects. Certain drugs used to treat high blood pressure and arthritis fall in this category. In addition, different drugs can interact in unforeseen ways when taken together. It is important that each doctor know all the different types and dosages of medicine being taken and discuss them with the patient. This is another reason why older people should consider psychotherapy first in treating depression. If you are taking medication for a medical condition, you always run the risk of a medication interaction with antidepressant medications, unless closely supervised and monitored. If your depression can be treated without medication, it is healthier, and presents less risk for additional problems. 

Genetics and Family History

Depression runs in families. Children of depressed parents have a statistically higher risk of being depressed themselves. Because of these statistics, researchers believe that some people may have a biological make-up that makes them vulnerable to depression. However, to date, these possible biological causes have not been identified.